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The Blue & Gray Press | February 22, 2018

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In the endzone: NFL offense vs. defense debate

By NATE MARKLEnfl

The Denver Broncos are the darlings of this NFL season, but elsewhere in the AFC West, the Kansas City Chiefs have begun to stir up their own buzz. The Chiefs are currently tied with the Broncos atop the division, leading with a perfect 6-0 season thus far.

Before the season, the Chiefs were a cool pick to make as a wild card, with a fresh quarterback and a new, well-revered head coach. However, the team’s impressive play changed the conversation. Why settle for the wild card?

Offense is flashy and fun, explaining the country’s obsession with Peyton Manning and the Broncos and Denver posted all sorts of record breaking offensive totals through the first six weeks. Something to keep in mind though is the old adage, “defense wins championships.”

The Kansas City Chiefs have been the Bizarro Broncos, accumulating historic defensive numbers after the first six games. In fact, the Chiefs’ defense is 126 percent better than the NFL’s average defense in terms of yardage and points surrendered.

The defensive unit bolsters a front seven riddled with savvy and speedy pass rushers. Captain Tamba Hali anchors the pass rush and embodies the defense’s tenacious spirit.

A secondary filled with hard-hitting, ball-hawking defensive backs assist Hali and his boys on the back end. Only the Seattle Seahawks possess the ability to press wide outs the way the Chiefs do.

The corners frequently play press coverage on the opponent’s wide receivers, making it harder for pass catchers to create space or get open. Combine that with the pressure the line applies on the passer and the offense does not stand much of a chance.

That is not to say the Chiefs cannot play offense either. Running back Jamaal Charles is proving to be one of the top three backs in the league.

Charles tied the great Jim Brown on Sunday as he racked up over 100 yards from scrimmage and scored a touchdown for the sixth game in a row. Only O.J. Simpson did better, holding the record after he once opened the season with nine consecutive games with similar stats.

Then there is quarterback Alex Smith. After a decade of Chiefs’ quarterbacks like Matt Cassell, Damon Huard, Brady Quinn and Brody Croyle, the fans need to be grateful for Smith.

Smith is the epitome of the game manager quarterback, he simply does what it takes to win. He will not post spectacular numbers, but he also will not turn the ball over.

With a dominating ground game at his advantage, Smith can really aggravate defenses. He has the ability to zip the ball to receivers, scramble for first downs and avoid costly sacks, all of which has been on display this year.

So far, the Chiefs benefit from an easy early schedule, since the first six teams they played have combined for a record of 11-25. That may not be impressive, but a win is a win.

Broncos fans should worry as the Chiefs continue to roll during the next few weeks. Between now and week 10, when Denver and Kansas City finally face off, the Chiefs will play a tumultuous Texans squad, the Cleveland Browns and the Buffalo Bills.

The Chiefs could and should still be undefeated when they roll into Denver’s Mile High in week 10. If they can get nine wins to open the season, they will almost undoubtedly be on their way to the postseason.

On the other hand, the problem is bigger than that for Denver, since the Chiefs might very well beat the Broncos in Denver.

If any one can put a halt to the high octane Broncos offense, it is the physical Chief’s defense. The Broncos’ offensive line is riddled with injuries, costing Manning two centers and two tackles.

There will be conceivably no pass protection for Manning, considering the strength of the Kansas City pass rush. The Chiefs bruising cornerbacks could pose a threat to Denver as well as receivers like Wes Welker and Eric Decker are relatively small and finesse players.

Supremacy is up for grabs and the Broncos are no longer the only horse in the race. The fan favorite debate of “defense or offense?” will be played out and the victor will be AFC West champs.

Additionally, the Chiefs are a completely different team than the one that won a mere two games in 2012. It is time for the NFL to take notice and acknowledge that this year’s Chiefs are a real contender.

Regardless of that outcome, it is clear: the Broncos and Chiefs are both destined for the postseason, and fans may get to see them play a third time.